Not just another concert: A unique opportunity for Pioneer’s concert orchestra


Photo Curtesy of Mr. Glawe

Recently, Pioneer’s concert orchestra played a unique concert titled “Tagore on Soul and Strings”. According to Pioneer’s orchestra director Jonathan Glawe, the concert and the preparation for it were quite unusual in nature. “I do quite a lot of performances as a music educator,” he said, “but this one felt different.” So, what is “Tagore on Soul and Strings”?

According to the performance’s program, the concert included a few of the songs composed by Rabindranath Tagore, an innovative Indian poet, composer, and musician among other things who created “his own inimitable genre of music.” The concert also allowed Pioneer’s concert orchestra to work with several featured guests from India and various parts of the United States including Dr. Rajeeb Chakraborty, Dr. Mousumi Banerjee, Shom Chatterjee, Dr. Sakti Das, Ashish Sarkar, and Thomas Millard as a part of Tagore Beyond Boundaries, a non-profit that celebrates Tagore’s work.

According to Glawe, even at the very beginning, the collaboration presented itself as a unique and special opportunity. “During [Dr. Mousumi Banerjee and Dr. Rajeeb Chakraborty’s] visit [in December of 2016], the Symphony Orchestra read one of the Tagore transcriptions for orchestra,” he said. “Being the first artists to play the orchestration, was a very special moment, and we knew at that time a future collaboration might be possible.”

However,  just like the concert, the preparation was also non-conventional. “Through our exploration of Tagore’s music over the past few months, we have been able to stretch our musical skills technically, and have done so by challenging the ‘status quo’ of an ensemble rehearsal. The process of reading music for the first time and sending suggested edits back to orchestrators on another continent has been invigorating, and also an exercise in creative exploration,” Glawe said.

The concert was simultaneously a  celebration of diversity. According to Junior Mira Strauss, who participated in the event,“It’s a way to combine music and cultures and education into one project.” “It sounded really different from what we usually do, so refreshing,” she said, “we’d never done anything like it.”

All in all, the concert was something to be proud of, according to students. “[I’m] proud to have been able to do this for all the people for whom it meant a lot,” said Strauss.

The director, Mr. Glawe, has a similar opinion and says that he is proud of all of his students. “I felt pride in my students and joy in the musical product,” he said.  “Simply put, this was not just another concert. It was a very memorable event that my students can take with them forever.”